The Journey or the Destination?
The Journey or the Destination?
by Greg Dykstra
© 2016 Primal Rights, Inc
I'm quite certain that all of us have been told at some time in our lives that the destination is irrelevant, but rather the journey that is important. I've often wondered about this statement. Is it not the thought of the destination that prompts us to begin the journey? Regardless of how you may interpret that, I think we can all agree we are meant to enjoy life.
Throughout all of the tribulations and triumphs in my life, some things have always been there. Always there, end ever bright. Even on the darkest of days, they were there shining. A refuge from the anguish of a fight. A well deserved break from the perils of even a job done well under way. Like a warm blanket they have been there to soften the harsh reality of my time here. Predator hunting is one of those things. No matter where life took me, I have been calling coyotes. From the first set, at 10 or so years old, it has been there. I went many years at a time without hunting big game. Even archery antelope, whitetail, and mule deer did not hold the challenge and captivate me the way calling coyotes has throughout my life. Twenty-five plus years later and coyote calling can cause me to endure some of the most grueling things, and unlike most trying endeavors, I'm generally smiling and happy the entire time. I've called coyotes in washington, oregon, california, arizona, new mexico, nevada, idaho, montana, wyoming, utah, north dakota, south dakota, nebraska, minnesota, iowa, oklahoma, colorado, and texas. Wherever I go, or have been, it has always been on my mind. No matter what life has sent my way, the sight of a coyote working his way in on me has always been special. The complexities of life evaporate the instant I catch that unmistakable figure in the distance, and for those precious moments, there is nothing else. Nowhere else to be except right there. Nothing else to do except connect with that fur. For some, coyote calling is just another thing to do. Earlier in life, I went through phases where I suppose that were true even of me. However in recent years, I feel connected when I'm out there like I feel nowhere else.
I'd like to take you with me, out there, for just a while.
Arriving at the Coyote Cabin is like driving to salvation. Being near it is enough. Being there, you feel undeserving. For the price of a couple tanks of gas and half a day, everything begins anew. We're here for one purpose, and one purpose alone; to hunt. A rolling fall storm looms on the horizon as we bask in the sunlight for what seems an eternity. You feel chosen.
Coyote Cabin. Off the grid, yet providing entertainment and healthy living for those days when the wind can tear bare skin. A hot shower can feel like a gift after enough days afoot. Sleeping quarters, blu-ray's on the flat screen for entertainment and education. No one minds using the bucket and solid waste bags when the driving blizzard or freezing rain howls behind the walls. The smell of freshly cut pine boards is therapeutic.
Cast iron pot on a camp stove is nearly biblical in it's ability to crank out untold quantities of food. My loving wife cooks stew, mongolian noodles, and all manner of the most delicious cuisine imaginable and freezes it for our stays at coyote cabin. Cooking consists of dumping a frozen clump of food into the cast iron, heating it up, and eating. Without her planning of our meals, I cannot fathom the pounds of unspeakable tainted food we would eat. For who has time to cook, when there are coyotes that need attention? After dinner, it's off to dreamland. Who could stay awake after eating stew like this?
5AM rolls around and it's time to get rocking. In the morning my trusty companion and extraordinarily talented camera man hits the blender to crank out some shakes for the day. Mega high in protein and loaded with bananas. A better meal on the go, there is none. While he's doing that, I heat up some tea. Earl Grey, hot... of course. No other tea is acceptable. Let it be written, so shall it be done.
Drive. Make a set. Walk. Make a set, walk. Make a set. "Hey, there's a coyote out there 1400yds away." Squeak squeak squeak -not interested squeak louder -still not interested ki-yi's -still not howls -coyote gone, didn't care at all about anything. At this point I had a sinking feeling. 3rd set of the morning, and the coyote we saw didn't give a singular care about any sounds. I know he heard me. I know he did. We get up and move around that coyote. Call some more. Nothing.
Make a stand, walk, make a stand, walk. Half the day gone... bring it on.
Drive... hide the truck in the bottom. Walk. Make 2 sets in opposing directions. Blank after blank after blank.
Set after set, blank after blank. The clouds have the sun beat back, but its still too hot. Shedding clothes 3 different times throughout the morning. Still can't hold us down. Mile after mile, our boots take us into the heart of some of the best territory this United States of ours has to offer.
14 sets, well over 10 miles on foot, we hunt as hard as we can. We put in set after set, staying focused, not losing patience. We bury ourselves deep in the back country for the last set of the day. If anything is going to produce, it's this one. It's nearly dead calm. A 1-3mph breeze from our 2:00 and I can see everything within 800yds of us downwind. The evening air is cooling. The sun is at our backs when it does happen to peak from the clouds. It's a stand sent from heaven on the wings of angels. It has to deliver. I hop on the primal rights Rope call and start in on some distress. About five minutes in, I spot some movement a ways out in front. A quick glance with the Swarovski EL Range binos and confirm a badger at 550yds. Well within the danger space of my 22 Creedmoor launching 80gr bergers at 3525fps. I was deliberately shooting the carriage bolts on our steel targets at that distance just a few days prior. A badger won't be a problem. How did I know it was a badger at that range? http://amzn.to/2e2LhBG That right there is how. You want to know what it's like having 10 power eyeballs with a laser range finder built into them? Get you a set. He is in motion when I see him, and he stays in motion for the 10 seconds it takes him to get out of sight behind a hill. Disappointing, as it was a very big badger. Those paws would have been legendary. Gotta stay in the groove, there's still a coyote coming. Has to be. A coyote or five, no doubt.
The clouds choke out the light.
Blistered feet scream defeat. Cold defeat. A defeat that is bittersweet. Mostly bitter. Run hard, all day, in sets we've killed 3 coyotes in one spot before, yet today we are skunked. Coyote hunting for this many years, and still get skunked. I think I said to my hunting companion, "I wish someone would teach me how to coyote hunt." The walk back to the truck is long and difficult. Fifteen quality sets, spanning 40 miles, from sunrise to sunset, in golden territory. It's a sour taste that I refuse to swallow or spit out of pure spite. Darkness sets in. I wonder what it would feel like to be dragged down a barbwire fence. Perhaps staked down to that fire ant mount we encountered earlier. All these years, and coyotes are still the only creature in God's beloved creation that can teach me humility like this. Coyote Cabin is renamed Loser Lodge for the night. We don't deserve it, but we treat ourselves to my wife's amazing mongolian dinner. A hateful sleep ensues.
A new day dawns. Our spirits risen as the prior evening's defeat has been washed away by the sandman's welcome visit during the night. The promise of adventure is all we have the will to hope for. It is all we dare hold hope on. The morning routine before leaving camp is well set. Secure grub. Secure beverage. Secure equipment. Secure cabin, roll out. If we're hitting the pedals before the sun is gracing our faces, we've succeeded. Soon, a familiar feeling. A disturbing trend. Set after set after set. We see nothing. We hear nothing. We feel nothing. The morning grinds on. Our feet are destroyed from the day prior. Our bodies are starting to feel the fatigue start setting in. Whatever the coyotes were doing yesterday, they are again doing today. Just show me a piece. Give me something. With this hardware, these conditions, and my skillset, a coyote within 1000yds is in serious trouble. Just show me one. Come on, he doesn't have to come trotting up like we can make them do so easily on other days... just give me a shot at one. I've been here before. Desperate men are dangerous men.
We pull up to the next set. I don't like the look of these cows. Just something about them. Menacing. Elusive. We refrain from entering. There are other sets.
While en-route to the next set, I spot something out my window about 600yds out. Looks like an antelope. I roll down the window and back up while bringing those swaro bino's up to my eyes. Boom! A coyote, right in my face. He sees that I've backed up and starts trotting off. He's in a nice big cut, and I know he's not coming out of it until he gets in there deep. Enough is enough. Time to settle up. This dog is mine. We drive forward about half a mile, grab our packs, and take off double time across the prairie. I'm going to get in front of this dog and call him in, or have a heart attack trying. We get about 3/4 of a mile deep, and discover a nice little bowl and cut which runs down right on top of where this coyote had to have been heading. Perfect. I have you now. You're done and you don't even know it. We get setup. Camera! Rifle! ACTION! I start in on my series. About 3 minutes in, and I spot a coyote coming in from way across the big cut. 1500yds+ out and here it comes. Slow though. Much too slow for being that far away. Hmmmm. I don't like this. It keeps coming to 925yds and stops. Locks right up right there. I keep calling. Nothing. It sits down. I change up calls. It lays down. I change up sounds. I throw everything but the kitchen sink, and then the kitchen sink. Nothing. Just lays there. Fine. You want to lay there like that in this 5mph breeze, go ahead. You're gonna finish your time on this earth right there in that spot. I grab my bipod out of the pack, pull the rifle off the Really Right Stuff tripod and go for prone position. I've got the legs pulled out all the way, and found a nice little corridor through the grass. I don't have dope for a 925yd shot so I pull out my phone and take a peak. About that time my hunting partner whispers "he stood up." "now he's walking" About that time, we hear it. Airplane. OMG. Please. No. Just why!?!?!??! I jump down behind the rifle just in time to see the coyote trotting off behind the hill up the cut. I'm sick. Can't even get a 925yd shot at a coyote. Bury me with a shovel and bury the shovel. Ever heard a bunch of cussing while whispering? It sounds silly. Made me feel better at the time. I was killing this coyote. That is the end of it. We pack up and head out after it. That coyote looked really gray. The coyote I saw from the road was really blonde. Blonde to the point I mistook it for an antelope at first. Hmmmm. A very brisk pace was adopted. I was going to close the distance on this coyote and he was going to catch an 80gr'er and that was that.
We make it about 500yds and BOOM! Coyote, right in front of us, just over the closest hill. It's him. It's the blonde coyote I saw from the road. He was coming. He just didn't make it there in the 30 minutes we were messing around with that other coyote. Ugh... WHY!!??! Very well, it is you that shall die. We drop the packs, yank out tripods, rifles, cameras, and our pride, and start moving in. I crest the hill and lock on. I immediately notice a large cattle tank between us and that coyote. I duck down beneath the top of the hill and make my way behind that tank, cameraman in tow. I settle in behind the little corral and re-acquire the coyote on the far side. He's still just standing there, looking around. I get the crosshairs on him and the entire top half of my scope is wood. That will put my bullet path above the bottom section of corral. Green to go. Camera gives me the signal. I steady. press RING! thump! Turns out that even shooting a suppressed rifle next to a big pressure tank causes it to ring like crazy. It was surreal. The 80gr berger slammed into the coyote 280yds away hitting behind the shoulder and exited the far side a bit farther back. The dog bit and tore at himself worsening the wound before promptly expiring a few seconds later.
"... and the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air and a voice cried out from heaven saying 'It Is Done.'"
Commence adrenaline dump. Physically and mentally exhausted. Beat. Down. Followed immediately upon fur down by euphoria. I've never used drugs. Is this what it's like? Does it feel like this? I can't imagine so. This feeling is better than anything. Is this why I do it? This feeling? Could I have this feeling without the prior 20+ sets and umpteen miles the previous day and earlier this morning? If I didn't feel so defeated the night before, would I feel as victorious as I do right now? A nuclear bomb couldn't bring me down. A bulldozer couldn't crush my spirit. We hunt the rest of the day. Newfound vigor.
We stop for lunch. Some freshly sliced turkey wrapped around pepper jack cheese with a drop of miracle whip atop a ritz cracker can treat a guy pretty good.
While I re-energize, my companion drifts off while doing his best contortionist impression.
Beauty beyond compare. Neither of us care if we see another coyote today.
You can watch this hunt as I've told it. Over 36hrs in the field. Over 90 gigabytes of raw footage. Over 18 miles on foot. Over $30,000 of equipment involved. ... and all I ask is three minutes of your time to watch it.
Thanks for coming with us on this hunt. Is this part of the journey? Is it the destination? I no longer feel the distinction important. We're all here right now, doing whatever we are doing. I'm not sure how much time I have left. I'm going to spend it doing things that are important to me.
Am I happy?
Yes, I think I am.
Great write-up. Is that for a magazine? You might submit it...I bet someone would run it.
Our journey will easily become sidetracked with everyday life if we forget the destination we are striving for.
Great wrote up as well. That's what I thought to, this could easily be in a magazine or a short story.
Love your hunting shack, awesome set up.
Thanks fellas. Pictures were only taken with an iphone, so I don't think they'd be up to snuff for a magazine.
Terrific read, thank you. :smile:
The videos you guys make and now this article are greatly appreciated.
Yup, the article make me want to go blast some coyote actually.
Sounds like that set up would be awesome.